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Unemployment benefit applications hit record high in Q1: gov't data

All Headlines 11:28 April 15, 2018

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- The number of people newly applying for unemployment benefits reached a record high during the first quarter of this year, government data showed Sunday, amid concerns over a sharp increase in the minimum wage causing employers to lay off workers.

The liberal Moon Jae-in administration raised the minimum wage by 16.4 percent to 7,530 won (US$7.02) on Jan. 1 this year, the biggest jump in nearly two decades, while planning to increase the wage to 10,000 by 2020.

As many as 628,000 people got unemployment benefits, worth 1.49 trillion won (US$1.39 billion) in total, during the first three months this year, up 6.9 percent, or 40,000 recipients, from a year earlier, the statistics from the state-run Korea Employment Information Service (KEIS) showed.

The number of recipients is the largest since 2010, when the government began compiling such data.

The amount represents a 16.0 percent hike on-year, also the highest amount since 2007 when such data became available.

The number of unemployed has risen steadily to 1,257,000 in March from 1.02 million in January and 1.26 million in February, according to figures from Statistics Korea.

The March figure is the highest since 1999.

The number of temporary and part-time workers was tallied at 6,074,000 during the first three months this year, down 181,000 from the same period last year, Statistics Korea data showed.

During the same time span, the number of those employed in the wholesale, retail, lodging and restaurant industries fell by 98,000.

"We need to look at the restaurant and lodging industries to gauge the effect of the minimum wage hike," Professor Sung Tae-yun of Yonsei University said. "Statistics show the minimum wage hikes did affect contract employment."

A file photo of jobless people attending a session at the Korea Employment Information Service in Seoul on Feb. l2, 2018, to get unemployment benefits. (Yonhap)

hdh@yna.co.kr
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